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Doing Car Boot Sales

By: Elizabeth Hinds - Updated: 24 Feb 2014 | comments*Discuss
Car Boot Sale Buying Selling Running

Reduce, reuse and recycle. For those seeking to be more self-sufficient and trying to live by this mantra, car boot sales can provide genuine bargains. From almost new household goods to baby clothes, rare vinyl records to garden plants, the buyer who’s willing to search can often find just what he’s looking for at a good price at a car boot sale.

And, for many, running a regular car boot sale has proven to be an enjoyable and money-raising venture. We’re not talking millions here but a little extra is always handy when the bills come in. Some like to specialise, buying up and reselling particular items like old china or books, while others find an outlet for their green-fingered produce.

But whether you’re planning a stall or going along to browse for bargains, there are some things you need to know. Jared is a regular car booter, both buying and selling. We asked him for some advice on how to get the best out of the car boot sale experience.

Running a Stall at a Car Boot Sale

  • Try and persuade a friend to help you. Not only will they be useful in the setting and clearing up, they’ll be company during the quiet moments.
  • Make sure your items are clean and in full working order.
  • If you’re selling an item for somebody else agree a minimum selling price beforehand.
  • Some items won't sell. If you visit a charity shop you’ll see things like the same vhs videos, small cheap toys and men's pants there for weeks, so don’t have those on your stall.
  • You may get a better price for some items by selling them on Ebay or Gumtree or in the local paper.
  • Don't bother going if it’s forecast to rain during the car boot sale at all.
  • Take a flask of tea and a float of small change. And find out where the nearest toilets are.

Setting Up

  • Get there early. In the summer this means 5.30 am for a morning car boot sale.
  • Find a good pitch. If you’re too far away from the entrance customers will lose interest before reaching you.
  • Dealers prey on sellers and will begin rummaging through your stuff even before you’ve finished laying it out. They’ll try to buy items cheaply from you so they can sell them for 3 times the price later on at their own stall.
  • Don't overcrowd your stall or you'll blind buyers with your clutter.
  • Choose a few attractive items to display at the front of your stall to catch people's eye and draw them to your stall.
  • Group similar items together in your display.
  • Don't label and price every item as this puts people off and stops you being flexible with your price.


  • Customers come in waves: dealers first, collectors second, browsers third, casual day trippers next, the impoverished last. Reflect this in your price, but don't drop too quickly.
  • If someone is keen but doesn’t want to pay the price let him walk away. If he’s really keen he’ll be back or someone else will.
  • Don't sell your most attractive or popular items at reduced prices too quickly.
  • Leave 20minutes before the end and beat the rush at the local rubbish dump.

Buying at a Car Boot Sale

  • Get there as early as you can.
  • Take your own bags.
  • Don't buy from professional dealers as you could probably buy their trinkets cheaper somewhere else. If you visit the same car boot sale regularly, you’ll get to recognise the dealers who tend to have things in quantity – and charge more.
  • Work out a price you’re happy to pay for the item before you ask "how much is this?" And then don’t pay more!
  • If you fall in love with an item try your hardest to play it cool and not give your game away or you could end up paying over the odds.
  • Walk away (or pretend to) if you have to.
  • Don't spend hours chatting to an old friend you’ve bumped into or you'll miss out on those items you came for in the first place.
  • Don't feel like you have to leave with something: it’s not compulsory to buy!

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Having done many car boots I could add a lot to this article. DISPLAY IS EVERYTHING !!! See through plastic sheeting to cover up books when it rains...essential I once lost my entire stock during adownpour. One minute of rain can destroy a paperbacks/magazines/comics forever. Books...do NOT throw in a heap on the ground. Have them all neatly displayed in rows inboxes or shelves, right way up, spines visible and every title and author readable. Large books display cover face on. Ditto for magazines, videos, DVDs and CDs. Otherwise they will NOT sell. People usually have an idea what particular type of item they want before they even arrive at your stall. Have it ready and waiting for them, on display not rummaged for like a needle in a haystack. Plasterboard table ( used for pasting wallpaper is best display unit). Small items to front, large to rear. Once display is complete, pop round the front of it for a minute see how it looks as a customer sees it...rearrange accordingly...the less bending down or lifting for them the better ( especially older customers). Use old blanket(s) to lay out neatly on ground display under/in front of /next to table. Keeps goods from getting dirty. Toys in a box...ground level so little ones can reach in and see what they like. Lures...well placed bowl of water lures over any dog leading customer. Pass out freebie sweets for kids, this way they drag mum and dad over to stall! Seasonal goods...in winter have lots of scarves, gloves and hats for sale which customers will buy for use there and then. Likewise summer: sunglasses, cans of pop/water bought in bulk...charge £1 a tin/bottle. Umbrellas for rainy days. Downward intonationin voice when customer asks price...rising intonation invites haggling. Often best customers are fellow car boot dealers for both buying and selling. Get to know them. Good barter occurs this way. Take camping or deckchair to sit on. Take a radio, play on low something melodic, not heavy rock but Radio 2 or maybe classical. Don't "pounce" on customers with eager offers you will scare them off.Just sit back, give them space to browse and leave them to it.SMILE !!! Don't sell anything electrical unless it is PAC tested. YOU are liable if customer electrocutes themselves. Take some baby wipes/ J cloths/ sponge panscrubs/ bottle of detergent to polish up soiled goods ( this helps pass the time too...as does a good book, flask and packed lunch). I never sold food on mine...hefty fines can be incurred if a Health & Safety inspector pops by ( and they sometimes do). In direct contradiction to your article...do NOT leave early leave last and rummage through what other dealers have discarded, I often increased my stock that way, cleaned it upand sold much of it on the following week.
Cosmic Tramp - 24-Feb-14 @ 1:53 PM
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